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Digital Switch Will Be Messy, Now or Later

Having predicted that the switch to digital television would be delayed, I have sympathy for all sides in the debate on when to turn the lights out on analog TV — mostly because no matter when that happens, a lot of people are going to be sitting there with a quizzical look on their face.

The whole discussion, in fact, brings to mind implementation of the V-chip, allowing parents to block objectionable programming. After months and months of blather about it, I recall polls that showed ungodly percentages of parents had never heard of it. This told me that these are the kind of parents who don’t read or watch a lot of news, and that they would remain ignorant until someone knocked on their door and literally implanted a V-chip in their skulls.

Ditto for the 6.5 million households — or about 5.7% of U.S. homes — that profess to be unprepared for the transition, according to Nielsen. Although that figure has improved, there’s no way around it: When the change finally happens, several million people are going to be sitting there with rabbit ears in one hand going, “Hey, where the hell did my TV signal go?”

As a Los Angeles resident, I am relieved to see that L.A. is only ninth on the list of least-prepared markets, behind (or actually, ahead of) Albuquerque, Dallas, Houston, Tulsa, Portland, Salt Lake City, Memphis and Austin.

Having spent a fair amount of time in Texas, I can’t say the fact that three of those markets are in the Lone Star State surprises me. On the plus side, even when their TV’s go dark, folks there will still have access to their beer and their guns, so it’s not like they won’t be able to entertain themselves.

Least Prepared Local Metered Markets Based on Percentage of Households Currently Unprepared for Digital Conversion

Rank Market %TOTAL %AA %HISP % Under 35 % 35-54 %55 +
1 ALBUQUERQUE-SANTA FE 12.24 n/a 13.25 15.50 13.87 8.88
2 DALLAS-FT. WORTH 10.21 15.70 13.86 14.68 10.04 6.82
3 HOUSTON 9.95 14.12 17.01 17.07 8.08 7.79
4 TULSA 9.53 n/a n/a 16.19 12.61 3.04
5 PORTLAND, OR 9.08 n/a n/a 13.71 6.29 9.35
6 SALT LAKE CITY 8.58 n/a 5.47 8.14 11.23 5.83
7 MEMPHIS 8.53 12.62 n/a 7.69 8.27 9.24
8 AUSTIN 8.45 n/a 13.56 14.34 6.31 5.48
9 LOS ANGELES 7.66 11.21 11.20 9.49 8.79 4.81
10 SACRAMNTO-STKTON-MODESTO 7.33 5.04 7.12 7.39 7.36 7.26
11 PHOENIX (PRESCOTT) 7.31 n/a 18.16 16.43 6.56 3.10
12 JACKSONVILLE 7.02 14.67 n/a 8.65 8.21 4.95
13 DAYTON 6.88 8.56 n/a 16.83 3.19 4.88
14 GREENVLL-SPART-ASHEVLL-AND 6.69 15.30 n/a 19.34 5.08 2.66
15 INDIANAPOLIS 6.53 7.69 n/a 12.18 7.22 2.55

                                                                                source: The Nielsen Company

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